Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the likely incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that he will hold hearings on the deaths of migrant children at the border after two children in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection died in recent weeks.
“Yeah, I’m going to hold hearings on the deaths of these two children and the policies that entice people to come,” Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
“One of the mothers of these two children was not seeking asylum, she was just trying to come here to find a job,” he added.
Last week, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, called on Graham to hold hearings on the incidents, which have sparked a public outcry about the treatment of migrants at the border.
“These heartbreaking incidents are sadly consistent with previous reports of widespread abuse of children in immigration custody and the judgment of medical and mental health organizations that Border Patrol facilities are not adequately staffed or equipped to properly care for children,” she wrote in a letter to Graham.
The latest death was that of an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala, who died on Christmas Eve at the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles north of the border crossing in El Paso, Texas.
The boy – who Rep. Joaquin Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, identified as Felipe Gomez Alonzo – was taken to the hospital on Monday after a border agent noticed signs of illness, and according to a CBP news release, “The child was held for an additional 90 minutes for observation and then released from the hospital mid-afternoon on December 24 with prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen.”
Earlier this month, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died after she began vomiting and stopped breathing while in Border Patrol custody. The girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, later went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain swelling at a Texas hospital.
Graham’s comments come a day after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats for the deaths.
“Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally,” Trump tweeted Saturday.
CNN’s Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.